Developing Kingdom Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

The ‘Confrontational’ Model of Jesus

Jesus is often viewed as the ultimate model of contextualization.  He left His glory, taking upon Himself the likeness of man, in order to communicate the message of the Kingdom of God (Phil. 2:5-8).  “Jesus himself is in fact the most obvious contextualization of the revelation of God.  He is himself the logos of God who appeared as a man and was able to communicate to people completely on terms which were understandable to them.”[1]  Jesus took upon himself the form of a man and lived the life of a Jewish rabbi.  “He willingly submitted to certain restrictions and yet overcame them to accomplish his mission.”[2]

Yet, though Jesus did adapt Himself to the target culture He was seeking to reach (i.e. the Jews), He did not always follow the cultural norms of the day. Sometimes He deliberately violated the cultural practices and values of the Jews because the practices and values of the Kingdom of God were in conflict with their culture.  In such cases, the Kingdom’s values took precedent and He willingly accepted the opposition, scorn, and misunderstanding that followed from the Jews.

Let’s note a few of the examples where Jesus did not follow the Jewish cultural norms of His day.

[1]        Jesus talked to a Samaritan woman  –  John 4:1-27

It was not culturally appropriate for Jesus, a Jewish rabbi, to talk to a woman, especially since she was a Samaritan, for the Jews disliked the Samaritans very much.

[2]        Jesus traveled through Samaria  –  Luke 9:51-56

Because of Jewish disdain for the Samaritans, a Jew would go out of his way to not come into contact with them.  This included crossing to the east side of the Jordan River when traveling between Judea and Galilee.

[3]        Jesus and His disciples did not fast  –  Mark 2:18-22

It was the practice of the devout Jews to fast regularly.  The Pharisees fasted twice a week.

[4]        Jesus did not do the ceremonial washings before eating  –   Mark 7:1-8; Luke 5:29-32

The Pharisees would go through a series of washings before eating to remove any defilement from entering their body.

[5]        Jesus touched lepers  –  Mark 1:40-42

Lepers were considered unclean and to have contact with them was considered most defiling.

[6]        Jesus touched the dead  –  Luke 7:11-17; 8:51-56

Dead bodies were also considered a source of defilement for a Jew.

[7]        Jesus was anointed by a sinful woman  –  Luke 7:36-50

Prostitutes and the like were considered sinners and were to be avoided as they were a source of defilement.

[8]        Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners  –  Luke 5:29-32; 19:1-10

The same attitude was held for tax collectors as for other sinners (i.e. prostitutes).

[9]        Jesus healed (worked) on the Sabbath  –  Mark 3:1-4; Luke 6:6-11; 13:10-17; 14:1-14

The Jews had developed an elaborate set of rules and regulations to avoid breaking the fourth commandment of keeping the Sabbath holy.

[10]      Jesus’ disciples worked on the Sabbath  –  Mark 2:23-28

The act of picking the grain was considered work (i.e. threshing or harvesting).

[11]      Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for their cultural practice of Corban  –  Mark 7:9-23

To avoid the responsibility of caring for their parents, a Jew could declare that whatever personal resources might have been used to care for them were now dedicated to God.  Thus, they were exempt from this responsibility of caring for their parents.

[12]      Jesus instructed a man not to bury his father  –  Luke 9:51-53

It was the responsibility of the children (particularly the eldest male) to bury their parents and settle the estate.

[13]      Jesus cleansed the temple of the money changers  –  Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-19; Luke 19:46; John 2:13-22

It was the custom of the Jewish leaders to allow the money changers (bankers) to set up shop in the Court of the Gentiles of the temple three weeks before a major feast.  Here they exchanged the foreign money of the pilgrims for local money used for offerings and sold animals for sacrifice, all for a hefty profit.  Some have estimated the bankers’ profits at from forty thousand to forty-five thousand dollars. [3]

There are times as leaders when we will have to ‘swim against the cultural tide’ in order to see the change implemented that we are pursuing.  It will take faith and courage to persevere.  May we not be found wanting!

[1]  Watney, Paul B.    Contextualization and Its Biblical Precedents

Fuller Theological Seminary   PhD Thesis, 1985,  p. 218

[2]  Hopler, Thom  A World of Difference

Inter Varsity Press   Downers Grove, IL  1981  p. 65

[3]  Unger’s Bible Dictionary, 3rd Edition

Moody Press   Chicago, Illinois  1966  p. 757

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